With incidents of antisemitism increasing on college campuses across America, Northwestern University President Michael Schill is creating the President’s Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate.
In a letter to the NU community on Monday, Schill said the panel will examine the current situation on campus and “ensure we have mechanisms in place to help prevent the type of violence and threatening behavior that we have seen at peer institutions.”
A student at Cornell was recently arrested for threatening the lives of Jewish students, and dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations at Tulane University led to a Jewish student being assaulted and three arrests.
At Northwestern, Schill says, “I have heard from students and parents who feel unsafe.”
The president says NU is committed to providing a “safe and welcoming environment for everyone in our community, through measures both visible, and, in many cases, unseen.”
Following the Hamas terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Schill, who is Jewish, issued a personal statement strongly condemning the attack, saying he was “deeply repulsed and sickened” by the “horrific and inhuman” behavior by the militant group which controls Gaza.
Those attacks killed 1,200 people, and Hamas took some 240 hostages.
But he said it would not be appropriate for him to issue an official statement on behalf of the university, because “the university does not speak for our students, faculty, and staff on these matters…. For me to speak for them displaces their own freedom to speak.”
However, in his latest message, Schill says, “Northwestern will not stand for antisemitism or discriminatory acts directed at any individual based on their race, religion, national origin or other protected categories.”
Any violation of such policies, Schill says, could lead to internal university discipline or even turning the issue over to police.
Schill says fighting antisemitism and other forms of hate such as Islamophobia is consistent with protecting free expression.
He says while expressing political views might not rise to a policy violation, “they may still have no place in a community like ours.”
Schill says that “Just because someone has the right to say something doesn’t mean they should do so.”
He urges the NU family to “resist the temptation to denigrate others,” particularly on social media.
“Efforts to ‘dox’ or shame” individuals because of their beliefs, Schill says, “are simply beneath us and not worthy of any of” the university’s constituent groups.
The NU president calls on “all members of our community to use our collective voices to emphatically reject statements or banners that significant parts of our community interpret as promoting murder and genocide. This includes flying flags associate with Hamas and banners with the slogan ‘From the River to the Sea.'”
Many Jewish students, families, and organizations see “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free” as a call to eliminate the state of Israel.
Schill also notes there has also been growing hate directed not only towards Jews, but “to other groups such as our students of Palestinian descent,” and the committee will examine on-campus hostility which Palestinian students may be sensing.
More that 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as Israel’s military tries to destroy Hamas.
The Advisory Committee will be chaired by Kellogg Professor Efraim Benmelech and Bryan Brayboy, Dean of the School of Education and Social Policy.
Schill says members will be selected “to represent a diverse set of Northwestern perspectives and will include faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees.”
Schill says discussions about antisemitism and other forms of hate “are not easy, but they are essential,” showcasing how the Northwestern community “can come together to examine the world’s most pressing problems – a function of our University that is as important today as at any point in our history.”